Along the Route: Northwest Iowa farmer ready for partnership with carbon pipelines
Kelly Nieuwenhuis is no stranger to hard work.
"I'm a family farmer. I farm with two brothers. This would be my 40th year in 2023."
He's been part of the biofuels industry for years and has watched it grow and evolve with a changing market. "I've been involved in the biofuels industry for 20 years," he told me on a visit to his farm. "And the last 10 years I've been involved in the industry and definitely focused on carbon in tax reductions or carbon intensity reductions."
Farming in O'Brien County, Iowa, he's one of several landowners who have proposed carbon capture pipelines mapped for their property and he's already on board.
Summit Carbon Solutions and Heartland Greenway's Navigator CO2 Ventures are two liquid carbon-capture pipelines in production through the central United States. They would carry liquid CO2 from ethanol plants to a central location for underground sequestration. The success of these pipelines relies largely on voluntary easements signed by the landowners like Nieuwenhuis on the route.
"I was on board right away. Absolutely," he said of the pipelines. He's signed easements with both companies to install their pipelines through his farmland. "Nut the absolute best thing you could do is you could capture and sequester underground permanently."
Carbon has become a commodity in the ag industry and it's in many everyday items we use. "A lot of this stuff is used in carbonation, it's used in refrigeration, it's used in dry ice," Nieuwenhuis explained. "Markets are somewhat saturated, so we need to find another place for the CO2 to reduce the CO2 emissions."
"Prior to the ethanol industry or biofuels, we had livestock and we had exports and if those didn't work or the export numbers were down, we overproduced and we're subsidized," Nieuwenhuis said as he explained what he calls the 'agricultural stool. "And then we built the third leg of the stool, the biofuels industry, and that's been the absolute best wealth-building industry."
THE EASEMENT LOCATION
The area of Nieuwenhuis' farmland where the Summit and Navigator pipelines will be laid is a few miles from his home. We drove to the area so I could see it for myself.
"The Summit pipeline is going to go straight east and west right here," he pointed as we looked over his farmland on a windy February day. "Just over the hill there I have a natural gas pipeline that goes diagonally that's been there for 40-50 years and then behind that, probably 200-300 yards to the west of that is where the Navigator line is going to go, diagonally across."
"And how much of this area is the easement for the construction?" I asked.
"They are going to have a 50-foot-wide permanent easement and then a 50-foot temporary during the construction phase," Nieuwenhuis explained.
Nieuwenhuis has already received payment for the estimated crop damage to his land.
"You know they pay you, compensate you for crop damages over three to five years or longer," he said. He's already received part of those payments. "After three years, we stopped seeing issues with crop damages."
The Dakota Access oil pipeline runs through his farmland already. Several years removed from when it was installed, he says he doesn't see any change in yield.
"We've got yield maps that show over the last two years, we can't see the pipeline," he explained. "We're pretty confident that over time, I'm not saying it's an instant repair, things take a few years and that's why they pay in three to five years in crop damages or more if there's an issue. But I've learned to not say the word 'never' or 'forever' because it doesn't harm the property forever or anything like that."
Overall, Nieuwenhuis sees carbon capture as the next major step forward for the ag industry. "It just came home from the U.S. Grains Council meetings, and every country was talking about the need to lower your carbon intensities, and in their markets, they're paying you a premium to do it. And so I think if the biofuels industry wants to compete with the rest of the energy industry."
And as the world rallies for net-zero emissions by the year 2030, "that's a huge step to the race to net zero," said Nieuwehnuis. "And I think we can get to net zero in the next decade in biofuels and with the energy of the world focusing on low carbon we need to meet or continue to improve our process to stay in the game."
FOLLOW FOR MORE
"Along the Route: A Pipeline Discussion" is a multi-part series of reports looking at everything from the companies that want to build them to those "for" and those "against" and a deeper dive into to carbon and ethanol industries at the center of the project.
SEE THE VIDEO
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